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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/ 6/2008

Obama's voting record on abortion

By Michael Dobbs

Democratic debate, Hollywood, CA, Jan. 31 2008.

"I remember the days when Obama was already a rising national star in the Democratic Party and in the Illinois state legislature. And what a disappointment to us he was. He voted "present" instead of "no" on five horrendous anti-women/anti-choice bills."

--E-mail from Connecticut NOW attacking Sen. Obama's record on abortion issues.

The National Organization for Women has strongly endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. During the runup to Super Tuesday, a chain e-mail circulated among many NOW members denouncing Obama's record on abortion issues while serving as a state senator in the Illinois legislature. Echoing attacks by the Clinton campaign on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the e-mails cited his "present" votes on a succession of bills sponsored by anti-abortion activists.

Some analysts credit the earlier attacks on Obama's abortion record with helping to shift the momentum in the New Hampshire primary in favor of Clinton. So what are we to make of these latest e-mails?

The Facts

Obama has had difficulty explaining some of his 129 "present" votes in the Illinois legislature on issues such as promoting school discipline and prohibiting sex shops near places of worship. In the case of his votes on the anti-abortion legislation, however, he has had a solid alibi. The Illinois branch of the Planned Parenthood organization has given him a "100 percent" pro-choice voting rating and depicted the present votes as part of a previously agreed strategy to provide political cover for other legislators.

Under the rules of the Illinois legislature, a present vote effectively functions as a no vote because only yes votes count toward passage of a bill. Legislators vote "present" rather than "no" for a variety of tactical reasons, including making it more difficult for their political opponents to use their votes against them in campaign advertisements.

"We worked on the 'present' vote strategy with Obama," said Pam Sutherland, chief lobbyist for the Illinois branch of Planned Parenthood, an abortion rights group. "He was willing to vote 'no', and was always going to be a 'no' vote for us."

Sutherland said Planned Parenthood calculated that a 'present' vote by Obama would encourage other senators to cast a similar vote, rather than voting for the legislation. "They were worried about direct mail pieces against them. The more senators voted present, the harder it was to mount an issues campaign against the senator."

Here is a full list of Obama's seven 'present' votes on issues related to abortion:

1997 Votes

  • SB 230 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Senate approved bill 44-7, with five senators voting present, including Obama.

  • HB 382 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. House version, passed Illinois State Senate, adopted as law. Under the bill, doctors who perform partial-birth abortions could be sent to prison for one to three years. The woman would not be held liable.

  • 2001 Votes

  • HB 1900 Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Bill passed 38-10, with nine present votes, including Obama.

  • SB 562 Parental Notice of Abortion Act. Bill passed Senate 39-7, with 11 present votes, including Obama.

  • SB 1093 Law to protect Liveborn children. Bill passed 34-6, with 12 present, including Obama.

  • SB 1094 Bill to protect children born as result of induced labor abortion. Bill passed 33-6, with 13 present, including Obama.

  • SB 1095 Bill defining "born alive" defines "born-alive infant" to include infant "born alive at any stage of development." Bill passed 34-5, with nine present, including Obama.
  • The president of the Chicago branch of NOW in 1997 was Lorna Brett Howard. A former Clinton supporter, Brett says that she switched last month to backing Obama because she was "enraged" by the attacks by the Clinton camp. She credited Obama with a "100 percent voting record" on "pro-choice" issues.

    The current president of Illinois NOW, Bonnie Grabenhofer, issued a statement this week accusing Brett Howard of "misleading people and using her very old affiliation with NOW to help distance Senator Obama from his vote of present on key bills." She said that the Illinois branch of NOW did not support the strategy of voting present, at least as far as the 2001 votes were concerned, and added: "At that time, we made it clear to the legislators that we disagreed with the strategy."

    A lobbyist for Illinois NOW, Susan Bramlet Lavin, told me that "we asked our legislators to vote no" on the 2001 bills and never endorsed the Planned Parenthood strategy of voting present. "They were horrible bills, and we wanted no votes," said Bramlet Lavin. She said that Illinois NOW declined to endorse Obama when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

    The Pinocchio Test

    It seems that Illinois NOW and Planned Parenthood had different voting strategies on the abortion issue in the Illinois State Legislature in 2001. It was impossible for Obama to satisfy both groups at once. Let me know if you think that the Land-of-Lincolner has shown consistency on these issues or Illinois NOW has a reasonable case against him.

    (About our rating scale.)

    By Michael Dobbs  | February 6, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
    Categories:  Barack Obama, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues  
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    In terms of voting I believe YES is an affirmative. It is used to express agreement, a commitment, or an indication of your attention. NO is a negative. It is used to express negation, dissent, denial, or refusal. PRESENT is used to indicate you are there.

    Present, in terms of a vote, indicates you're in a dilemma and are facing a choice between two equally unsatisfactory alternatives. Present as a vote indicates you are unable to commit.

    Presidents don't have that luxury.

    Posted by: Marsha P. | February 6, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse

    "Present, in terms of a vote, indicates you're in a dilemma and are facing a choice between two equally unsatisfactory alternatives. Present as a vote indicates you are unable to commit."

    This is a willfully incorrect understanding of the system in Illinois and I can only hope that this ugly and slanderous rhetoric is put to bed as soon as possible. Here is another article the clearly explains what "present" means in Illinois:

    A quote from that article:

    "State Sen. John Cullerton (D) calls the "present" vote "a no vote with an explanation." Legally, there's not much difference between the two votes, but practically, it can let the sponsors or other legislators know of problems with the bill that should be corrected."

    Posted by: Nate | February 6, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

    Marsha has it exactly right. A present vote is to cover your butt, regardless of how you spin it. Man that is a gutless rule.

    Posted by: bnw173 | February 6, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

    Obama, will he Ever take a stand?

    he wobbles like a kid's toy.

    he's a gutless wonder

    Posted by: troy | February 6, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

    Are you crazy? Obama did exactly what Planned Parenthood asked him to do. If NOW's strategy was to insist on actual "no" votes, the group is even more woefully incapable of effective lobbying than I gave it credit for. Legislative voting doesn't happen in a vacuum. There's absolutely no point in forcing your supporters from challenging districts to vote "no" on a controversial bill when a "present" vote will accomplish the same thing *and* prevent them from being targeted by direct mail.

    Obama showed that he understands the political process when he helped Planned Parenthood implement the "present" strategy. His actions were far wiser and more mature than the strategies of NOW, which appear to have been to insist on stupid and useless votes simply to ... what? Cost their supporters seats in the next election? Because that's the only effect their strategy - as opposed to Planned Parenthood's strategy - would have had.

    Mr. Dobbs, you need to award Pinocchios to NOW, and a gold star for accuracy to Obama. His "present" votes were exactly what he said they were, and nothing at all like what NOW said they were. By representing that the "present" votes make Obama soft on abortion, NOW is simply and straightforwardly lying to its members. That's ludicrous and insulting.

    Posted by: Kate | February 6, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

    Presidents do have the luxury of a pocket veto. That is very similar to an Illinois present vote.

    Posted by: Cameron | February 6, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

    The "present" vote counts as a no, so Obama took a public stand that he was against the bills. Whether or not he had questions about only one part of a bill, his vote was registered on the side of those opposed. And it does seem strangely convenient that he had minor objections to all seven of these bills.
    Standing with those opposed to these seven bills may have been politically expedient, but it still demonstrates a reluctance to support the legislation.

    Posted by: Carol | February 6, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

    Fact Checker fails again, and NOW is a political dinosaur. May both of them go away and stop propagating blatant falsehoods.

    Posted by: Zoltan | February 6, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

    "The "present" vote counts as a no, so Obama took a public stand that he was against the bills."

    Then why didn't he outright vote "no"? If he was that committed to voting no, simply say so, not a halfway sorta-kinda "no" vote.

    Posted by: Scooter | February 6, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

    This seems to rate two Pinnochios. By making no reference to Planned Parenthood's strategy--there appears to be no dispute that Obama was following PP's lead at the time--NOW creates a false impression by ommission of a significant fact.

    Posted by: Ed | February 6, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

    Scooter, you're missing the point: there are Democratic/moderate members of the Illinois state legislature who cannot afford to vote "no" on abortion legislation, because of the direct mail that would generate in their districts. Obama was not from such a district - everyone agrees that he was perfectly willing to vote "no" until Planned Parenthood asked him to do otherwise. But for safe Democrats like Obama to vote "present" (which had the same effect as a "no" vote for purposes of defeating the bill) provided political cover to not-safe Democrats and/or moderates, who could then also vote "present" and not get targeted in their districts. The end result was the same - the bill was defeated - but the negative consequences (of lost moderate seats) were averted.

    Are people really naive enough to believe that "standing up for what you believe no matter what" is always the right way to proceed? That's just absurd. Sometimes, you sacrifice the opportunity to grandstand in order to accomplish the greater good - in this case, Obama sacrificed his opportunity to defeat the legislation by voting "no" in exchange for the opportunity to defeat the legislation by voting "present" *and* save moderate seats in the next election. How is that hard to understand?

    Posted by: Kate | February 6, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

    okay, so 2 organizations have the same goals, and the senator has two ways of voting no to achieve those goals. he listens to one group on how to do it, and the other group throws a fit even though had he voted their way it wouldn't have changed the outcome. no means no, and in this case present means no, so get over yourselves.

    Posted by: enkidu | February 6, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse


    You have it right. What was on display in the Illinois legislature was Obama's political savvy and thoughtfulness. But if someone is against Obama, they will think of any logic to show something bad about him.

    He is such a breath of fresh air in today's political world. We should be celebrating him instead of finding ways to diss him. His hope, once the hallmark of the United States moral philosophy, is what draws so many people to him. If only the naysayers would stop whinning.

    Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

    Here's the question one needs to ask, is NOW trying to confuse voters about Obama's record on abortion? The answer clearly is yes. It's not close. He has always been pro-choice. They know that. We know that. It's a lie to say otherwise.

    Posted by: Evil | February 6, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

    NOW's anti-Obama tack is embarrassing to pro-choice feminists. This is the kind of thing the "vast right-wing conspiracy" does to its targets, not our side. In-fighting between public-interest groups theoretically dedicated to the same outcomes is pathetic, as is the proliferation of overlapping public-interest groups, all asking for money to try to achieve the same thing.

    Posted by: Judyline | February 6, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

    Nice piece. I'm a Clinton supporter, who was troubled by the large number of present votes, but this is a satisfactory explanation for me given the stated strategy. I'm not clear on whether this gives a pass for the other 100+ present votes.

    Posted by: Generally Bob | February 6, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

    Thank you for clarifying the rationale for the 7 "present" votes taken by Obama in Illinois in 2001. Your objective presentation of the facts confirms entirely Obama's explanation and puts the lie to NOW's duplicitous charges.

    The NOW charges are totally without merit.

    I am ashamed to say that I am a NOW supporter...BUT NO MORE.

    The strategy used by the Illinois Planned Parenthood was an exceedingly sensible one to protect their elected advocates from exposure to no case would a NO vote have had the slightest bit of impact of the "horrendous" bills' passage.

    NOW seems very willing to sacrifice a legislator's future so that they might gain some instantaneous bragging rights in their own literature....

    There is no other explanation for the Illinois NOW chatter.

    The use of this spurious bit of trivia to advance Clinton's cause in Tuesday's race in Conn. demonstrates, once again, the status quo politics of the Clinton "machine." Dirty tricks ala the Republicans.

    What a slimeball bunch of jerks.

    Posted by: Gandalfthegrey | February 6, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

    Hey, I'm from Chicago and if you want to see if the people who really know IL politics had a problem with present votes look at how we voted. If a present has the same effect as a no, a proposition stated as true in the article, then NOW is trashing Obama for voting to DEFEAT anti-abortion legislation.

    Side note - if this is the best the Clintons and co. can come up with against Barack, doesn't that say something?

    Posted by: somua2 | February 6, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

    If a "present" vote functions the same as a "No" vote then what is the NOW organization complaining about. Clearly they are trying to spin it and mislead people who aren't attuned to Illinois legislative rules into thinking that he is not 100% pro-choice, which is wrong. Furthermore, they do it at the 11th hour to prevent Obama from responding with the truth. This should go down as a whopper. Shame on NOW and shame on the Clinton campaign.

    Posted by: Brendan | February 6, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

    NOW:"a disappointment to us he was. He voted "present" instead of "no""

    Dobbs:"Let me know if you think that the Land-of-Lincolner has shown consistency"

    As per usual, I'm left wondering just what the hell Mr Dobbs if "fact checking".

    Posted by: david | February 6, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse


    Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

    Regarding Obama's voting record on abortion rights - it makes no sense for NOW to object based on how the Illinois voting strategy worked. If "present" actually equals a NO, but aided other political allies in achieving shared goals-everyone benefitted.

    Posted by: Sharon W | February 6, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

    Whether or not NOW disagrees with the votes, they were given in support of Planned Parenthood, to defend women's rights.

    Here's Obama's work for women:

    1) 100% rating by Planned Parenhood

    2) Expanded early childhood education

    3) Created a working, affordable health care plan in Illinois, that covers 70,000 kids and 84,000 adults, where all kids qualify for $40 per child. Obama sponsored and passed this legislation, working with Rod R. Blagojevich(IL Gov.) See All Kids . It is a model for a workable, affordable national health care.

    4) Cosponsored the Healthy Kids Act of 2007 and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2007 to ensure that more American children have affordable health care coverage.

    5) Obama worked to pass a number of laws in Illinois and Washington to improve the health of women. His accomplishments include creating a task force on cervical cancer, providing greater access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, and helping improve prenatal and premature birth services.

    Posted by: kiku | February 6, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

    Go here to see Obama's extensive work to protect victims of sexual assault:

    Posted by: kiku | February 6, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

    If a "present" vote is the same as a "no" vote in the Illinois senate and everybody knows it, then exactly how is it that anyone thinks that voting "present" instead of "no" is such a clever strategy?

    If there were 52 senators available to vote and the result was 26 yes, 25 no, 1 present, does anyone think the "present" vote is the same as a "no" vote?

    Posted by: MEM | February 6, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

    Remarkable comments from IL NOW. They endorsed Senator Obama in 2002. SO WHAT'S THEIR BEEF!!!!!

    Posted by: lady | February 6, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

    To get an insight into Obama on all issues, check out Shelby Steele's very recent book:

    Posted by: Van | February 6, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

    Why are 2 organizations who both have the same goal of protecting women's rights fighting each other? Are they trying to self-destruct? Clearly NOW is willing to omit facts in order to get a win for the candidate that they have endorsed. I'm sorry, but that isn't going to help women. What they're going to achieve is to get lawmakers to ignore them - why would a lawmaker take any risky position for NOW if later on in a different election NOW will stab them in the back?

    Posted by: Lisa | February 6, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

    If "present" = no and Obama was "hired" by the PP Lobby to vote "no" then clearly he didn't do what he was paid to do. That's if everybody is telling the truth about what the understandings and instructions were. If he was given conflicting instructions by two different camps, then he was taking money from both sides and doing his own thing, which is equally wrong.

    What concerns me is his claims that he does not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists. Clearly this is not true, and all you have to do to ascertain the truth is to visit the web site where all campaign contributors are listed. Obama's list includes a long string of PAC funds.

    Posted by: Donna-San Diego | February 6, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

    Clearly, in this case, NOW is much more interested in their own power than they are with reproductive rights. NOW wants a woman to win the Presidency, and if that means throwing a few people who've helped them in the past under the bus, so be it. Lord Acton had it exactly right.

    Posted by: Didius Falco | February 6, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

    A yes is a yes.
    A no is a no.
    A present in a no.

    Posted by: Dutch P | February 6, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

    I haven't heard anything about Hillary Clinton cosponsoring a bill with Santorum-
    The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (S. 893):
    "The bill also seriously jeopardizes the wellbeing of American citizens. The broad language of the bill compromises health and safety by allowing healthcare workers to refuse to provide information and services related to family planning and HIV/AIDS treatment. Under the bill, police officers could also refuse to protect buildings if they had a moral objection to the tenant's activities--putting people like abortion clinic workers at risk.{note: nurses or doctors could also refuse abortions, based on their religious beliefs}

    This bill disregards existing civil rights law and employer nondiscrimination policy. While the AHA recognizes the importance of protecting religious freedoms, this bill attempts to do so at the expense of fundamental liberties."

    Posted by: CSteffe | February 6, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

    In 1992 Hillary, while campaigning with Bill in NH, stated "Anyone who cares about choice knws the difference between notice and consent andthat is a significant difference." Her quote is in an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette news article, dated 2-17-1992. How does NOW feel that their candidate publicly supported parental notification - something they abhor and know that n practice is absolutely no different from consent in terms of barriers to abortion for teens? Get your facts straight. Clinton's disregard for truth her and condoning the mis-messaging on such an important issue pushed me completely to the Obama camp.

    Posted by: robertoalberto | February 6, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

    Lets be clear here -- a present vote isn't yes or no, its an abstention. An abstention that allows politicians to not take a stand where it actually counts -- not in speeches or in books but in places of governance,like Senates. I find the reasoning behind the absention vote (and Mr. Obama's embrace of it) revealing -- it was to quote PP "harder to mount an issues campaign against the senator". Well, thats certainly true. If you don't take stands its hard to be attacked for them. And of course to get credit for a stand you didn't take or a vote you didn't cast -- well, thats every politician's dream, isn't it. Kind of like the credit he's being giving for the vote against the war that he never actually had to make.

    Posted by: SSK | February 6, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

    Taking a stand is imperative but if "present" was desired by the constituency involved in the vote, being loyal to that constituency was equally important. Hillary has taken a stand that she is 100% pro-choice and I believe her. Yet, she too is political on the issue as evidenced by the article referred to earlier. Teens have plenty of barriers to abortion and for her to suggest that there is a big difference between consent and notification, now or in 1992, was at best hyper political position and at worst an incredibly telling comment with regard to her true understanding of the issue. I still have to wonder why NOW is not up in arms over that and why they aren't sending all sorts of messages? Really, abortion IS a highly volatile issue and I for one appreciate those who work WITH constituencies who intimately know the issue.

    Posted by: robertoalberto | February 6, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

    A legislative strategy ... kind of like Hillary Clinton voting to approve the war in Iraq or the possibility of military strike against Iran but then claiming that she never intended for any of that to happen. Isn't this why legislators don't get elected president?

    To me, the fact is that Barack Obama voted present on these bills, which was a legislative strategy approved by a very respected (and might I add, more active) proponent of a woman's right to choose. NOW can disagree and air these complaints, but it is ingenuous of the organization to claim that a vote for Barack Obama is a "betrayal of women." Because of the overly simplistic belittlement of one candidate because of a legislative strategy -- one approved and documented by Planned Parenthood -- I think that NOW should get three Pinnocchios for ignoring the extenuating circumstances and making inflammatory and hyperbolic attacks on a man who has the same views as Hillary Clinton, but different ways to achieve them.

    Posted by: Andrew | February 6, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

    NOW is showing that it intends to elect Clinton at all costs, even if it means creating a rift in the women's rights movement.

    Shame on you.

    Posted by: Nancy | February 6, 2008 8:13 PM | Report abuse

    Hillary's pledge to repel Swiftboating by Republicans of her vast right-wing conspiracy comes across as hollow if not hypocritical in view of the repeated smears and distortions by NOW Clinton supporters just before elections take place.

    Posted by: FirstMouse | February 6, 2008 9:35 PM | Report abuse

    The issue here is not whether Obama did vote present on those bills, or whether Illinois NOW disagreed with his strategy. The issue is whether the presentation of his voting record is reasonable or misleading. I think it is clearly the latter. The implication from the email is that Obama's choices reflected a less than absolute commitment to abortion rights, rather than a difference in strategy about how to defend those rights. Does NOW also question whether Planned Parenthood is committed to abortion rights because they initiated this strategy?

    Different people will have different takes on the strategy Obama and Planned Parenthood implemented. Some people might prefer a candidate who voted "No" on those bills, making an unambiguous statement, even if taking such a stand led to the bills becoming law. Other people might prefer a candidate who participated in a successful strategy to defeat the bills, albeit without making as strong a personal statement. What's clear is that Obama did not make the votes because he was wishy-washy -- unlike some of his State Senate colleagues, he clearly had full support in his district to oppose the bills, and no one has disputed the fact that he initially planned to vote that way.

    Illinois NOW and the Clinton campaign are using a slanted presentation of the issue, as well as widespread unfamiliarity with Illinois' voting system, to give a false impression.

    Posted by: Clinton campaign and Illinois NOW should tell full story | February 6, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

    IL constitution link I found:

    It says bills must pass by a majority, it says nothing about a majority of those present. 59 senators. 118 Reps. Ergo= therefore, for the purposes of passing a bill, you need 30 yes in senate, 60 yes in house. Period.
    For passing purposes,
    "no"= "present"=staying home=getting caught in a traffic jam on the way to the capitol, etc. That's the math.
    Am I missing something?

    Posted by: abesmyth | February 6, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

    People claiming that Obama's present votes reflect that he's not "taking a stand" are completely missing the point. He didn't vote present to provide political cover for himself, he did it as part of a strategy organized by Planned Parenthood to provide cover for IL democrats that weren't in safe seats. Trying to spin the idea of helping fellow dems as being gutless is the sort of political strategy I'd expect from the likes of Karl Rove - win at any cost. The Clinton camp and NOW should be ashamed of themselves. I'd been starting to lean toward Obama for a while, but this issue was what finally pushed me off the fence. I've lived through two and half decades of this sort of politics and I've had enough of it.

    Posted by: jgarrick | February 7, 2008 12:02 AM | Report abuse

    The Clinton continued attack on Obama's choice record crosses the line. Obama has a 100% choice record from NARAL. The attack is much worse than anything Bill Clinton has said. It has divided the pro-choice community here in NH to this day. In NH at least she had the guts to mail the pamphlet out, though at the last minute, in the campaign's name and not use the cover of NOW (How real are state NOW organizations in 2008 anyway). Many prominent NH women Clinton supporters also signed her campaign's attack email at the campaign's requuest without really knowing what they were signing, didn't know anything about the practice of voting present in the Illinois legislature, etc. Clinton won in NH and left a divided Dem. party in the state. Obama won in South Carolina and left the state a united party.

    Posted by: Rob | February 7, 2008 12:07 AM | Report abuse

    This is garbage. Republicans controlled Illinois State government including the Senate and Governorship and were trying to wipe out Democrats by getting vulnerable Democrats on the record for "dismembering babies" or "letting live babies die." NOW disagrees with Obama's vote but lies when it portrays him as unwilling to take a stand. He did but he's not NOW's candidate so they will do or say anything to smear him. They're acting so much like Republicans it's sickening.

    Posted by: Melanie | February 7, 2008 2:48 AM | Report abuse

    I wonder what would have happened if this would have been Hillary Clinton. The press, the haters would have been ALL OVER IT.
    Pathetic, truly pathetic. By the way, why isn't this an article?

    Posted by: Anonymous | February 7, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

    Which part of 'Living to Fight Another Day' is not being understood here? Pro-Choice folks - would you rather see the lawmakers with the best chance of staunching stupid legislation smeared out of existence only to be replaced by extreme pro-life types? PP indicated that Obama was willing to vote no, but PP wanted to provide a little more encouragement to others who would suffer severe consequences and possibly forfeit the ability to guard your position, even if it means doing so by 'present' votes. The mission of PP in this regard was accomplished.

    I'd think the Illinois PP would have a much better grasp of local political strategy than the more extreme supporters in NOW.

    Posted by: T Partier | February 7, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

    Rob posted:

    In NH at least she had the guts to mail the pamphlet out, though at the last minute, in the campaign's name and not use the cover of NOW (How real are state NOW organizations in 2008 anyway). Many prominent NH women Clinton supporters also signed her campaign's attack email at the campaign's requuest without really knowing what they were signing, didn't know anything about the practice of voting present in the Illinois legislature, etc.

    Yep...I have to wonder how many NH women who signed the Obama attack piece in the 2008 primary were informed about not only Illinois procedure but also Hillary's pro parental notification statement made in NH during the 1992 primary her husband endured. She lost my vote once I saw her use this intentionally false info tactic. Her pro-choice positions over the years have been entirely driven by politics of winning and not at all by genuine conviction. I ask IL NOW again: What do you have to say about your candidate's position on parental notification being "different" from consent? Aren't you the group that says consent and notification are the same in practice? Are you sure, IL NOW, that you want to box Obama into a corner he got into w/PP help and allow Hillary to have a pass on her own compromise? Gender-based voting is not the "equality" most women fought for.

    Posted by: robertoalberto | February 7, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

    Dobbs I hope you aren't seriously waiting for our opinions on this one. NOW obviously deserves several Pinocchios for this. Are we actually supposed to believe that with Planned Parenthood's 100% rating and the former NOW president backing Obama that he has somehow failed on this issue? NOW clearly has an axe to grind and their agenda is transparent. What's astounding is how low they're willing to go to grind that axe. It's disgusting.

    Posted by: Dave | February 7, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

    Present is a coward's vote, no matter how you want to slice it - it's to keep from being on the record for a position.

    You can play it how ever you like - you can say it still counts as "No" but it's not. A 'NO' vote is by someone who says they oppose it; 'Present' says 'I oppose but don't want to come out and support that group' - a cowardly position.

    This country needs leadership not someone who will, once again, hide behind the definition of "is".

    Posted by: Tim | February 7, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

    The Hillary Clinton supporters on this blog are no better than Rove's slime machine. What difference does it make if we get McCain or Hillary - the same do anything, say anything politicians.

    Posted by: Jason X | February 7, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

    Hold on Jason X, "The Hillary Clinton supporters on this blog are no better than Rove's slime machine"

    First of all that's wildly overstated. Second of all it's becoming the tone of the Obama wave. Neither the "campaign" nor the "Clinton supporters" are trumpeting this charge so much as exploring it. It is a very suspicious bunch of votes that on further exploration makes sense. But Jason X, your comments and insinuations about the character of your opponent are offensive and one of the main reasons I abandoned the children's crusade.
    (I'll admit it, I flip flopped. I was for Obama - ~$250 - before I got tired of the Bob the builder rhetoric and now am against Obama).

    Posted by: Generally Bob | February 8, 2008 3:24 AM | Report abuse

    Well, you have to realize the difference between Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood works with people in the real world to achieve certain realistic goals. NOW has an idealistic stand that every man in the world is out keep women down and they won't be happy until women dominate the world. They don't want to get their share, they want to rule the whole thing. It's "we're going to rule and tell YOU MEN how it's going to be. See how you like that." That's kind of a non-starter. All men do not want to rule women or relegate them to having babies and cooking and doing dishes. They are about 50 years behind the times. Alot of them are pissed off with bad relationships they had 30 or 40 years ago.

    Posted by: majorteddy | February 8, 2008 10:08 PM | Report abuse

    So it seems that Obama voted "present" only out of political-savy and thoughtfulness. But if I'm not mistaken, his main mantra for the campaign is "change". Change the establishment, change the smoke-filled rooms politics, change this, change that. How come he still practices the old politics and not what he preaches for?
    It's just so funy that for all of his beautiful "change" rhetorics, he can still resorts to the established way whenever he deems fit. Campaigning with the Kenedy clans, one of the most deep-rooted and powerful dysnaties in Washington politics and still calling himself the agent of change, gimme a break.

    Posted by: Andy | February 9, 2008 10:49 PM | Report abuse

    Change meaning listening and working with those you serve to accomplish things in the most meaningful way possible - even if in some circumstances it means sticking to a tactic set up by old politics... Change always happens when leadership changes but in the Obama campaign, many sense that change really does mean inclusion and transparency in a way others talk about but find too difficult to walk with. If he gets in, the enhusiasm of so many will be his to lose. Spcific to the pro-choice issue, and your comments, really - why did Hillary say notification was significantly different than consent? Simple answer: same old politics of saying what you must to appeal to all...that will not change, at least not in her.

    Posted by: robertoalberto | February 10, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

    Hey DEMS...Stop the infighting!!! PLEASE
    Leave the hatred and false mongering to the Gop. You know they will be spreading all types of lies and nasty remarks, so much for a faith based party!!
    The goal here is to get the DEMS in the WH in 2008. Also, you should inform yourselves re. the IL state legislation rules, it differs from the rules in Washington. You have no grounds to use that against BO.
    Go DEMS 2008

    Posted by: Sandpiper | February 11, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

    O my good! Of course to vote "present" or "abstain" as we name it in Sweden is a vote of a coward, or in our party-system; when you don't agree with the party, but want to be loyal...

    But the real scary thing is the vote 38-10. Alright some present votes, but it still feels like 1800:s... I didn't know that Illinois was a part of the religious right wing america?

    A womens body is a womens body...

    Posted by: wallgren.mikael | February 11, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

    As a feminist, I'm disappointed in NOW, and agree with Ed (above) they've earned two Pinocchios. Thanks, Fact Checker for clarifying this hot-button item, even if you did wimp out and not grade them.

    Posted by: jhbyer | February 13, 2008 7:12 AM | Report abuse

    Has Fact Checker really wimped out??? Hope not bec this issue really is one in which people can judge the integrity and sincerity if not of the candidates themselves, then at least of those supporting the candidates - I do not mean to belabor but if Hillary AND Bill stated public support for parental notification (a barrier to abortion for teens) in th 2/16/92 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article PRECEDING the 1992 NH primary...and then disdained Tom Harkins campaign tactic of distributing the information...only to in 2008, just before he NH primary, distribute FALSE information about BO's record...and NOW repeat the campaign tactic just before Super Tues, well, it seems to be not only Pinnochio Awards but also a real illustration of the low level a candidate will go to in order to get ahead. I was torn bet. the two until this whole incident came up. Integrity, honesty, how one "leads" the actions of their staff and supporters do count.

    Posted by: robertoalberto | February 13, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

    So, Obama's "present" votes weren't to provide political cover for HIMSELF, but for his nervous colleagues (whadda guy). Because Obama firmly believes that when a woman in Illinois comes in for an abortion, she's entitled to a dead fetus and, by God, a dead fetus is what she's gonna get no matter how long it takes for the damn thing to die.

    Gotta feel for the poor guy. Caught between NOW's rock and Planned Parenthood's hard place. I'll bet not even Solomon faced such a dilemma.

    Posted by: SukieTawdry | February 13, 2008 10:04 PM | Report abuse

    Robert's Rules of Order explains that voting "present" in some circumstances can expand the number of votes required for approval. When voting rules require a "MAJORITY OF THOSE PRESENT" (instead of those present AND voting) -- the present vote is no longer an abstention -- it becomes a "no" vote.

    Example 1 (passage requires a majority of those present AND voting): 20 people in the room. 9 vote yes, 0 vote no, 11 abstain from voting. MOTION CARRIES UNANIMOUSLY.

    Example 2 (passage requires a MAJORITY OF THOSE PRESENT): 20 people in room. 9 vote yes, 0 vote no, 11 vote present. MOTION FAILS

    Posted by: Jane Dough | February 17, 2008 5:05 AM | Report abuse

    There is a big difference between Pro-choice and Pro-murder once a living child is separated from the mother there is no question that it deserves our protection.
    As to preventing unwanted and unplanned births I agree that some legal protection as well as some public support is required.
    After first trimester If mother has not decided on abortion then should continue to carry unless her life threatened and baby given up for adoption. As to continued interference of the Government into raising of children by their parents I say "No more" Make sure they (the children) receive enough biological information in school that ignorance is not
    an excuse. However the providing of birth control and the avoidance of informing the parents of their childs sexual activity only promotes more of the same with the consequences costing everyone in the country. Except in abuse of a minor by family the governmet should not be involved

    Posted by: Jules | August 17, 2008 1:09 AM | Report abuse

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